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Jet Board! 1983 SurfJet Freestyle 236SS

Having grown up in Wyoming, surfing wasn’t exactly something one could do easily, but I sure thought it sounded like fun! Well, it seems someone else felt my pain and came up with this wonderful contraption that let you “surf” in any large body of water. Or at least that’s the best reason I can think of for creating a motorized surfboard. Reader Keith A recently dug this 1983 SurfJet Freestyle 236SS survivor out of storage and thought we might enjoy seeing this unique find. It’s definitely not something you come across often. Our thanks to Keith for sharing his SurfJet with us!

Watching videos of people riding these SurfJets looks exhilarating and slightly terrifying. This 236SS is equipped with a 15 horsepower engine and can supposedly reach speeds of 35 mph. Hitting the water at 35 doesn’t feel great, but I guess at least on one of these boards you are in total control of where and how fast you go. From the few facts I could find about the 236SS, this is an 8-foot board. SurfJet also offered a 9-foot long model with the same engine. Since I don’t have experience with surfing, I can’t weigh in on how length impacts performance, but perhaps one of you has ridden both and can enlighten us?

While I was researching this board, I was surprised to discover that the idea of a motorized surfboard goes way back (possibly as early as the ’40s) but SurfJet built their first boards in 1980. They continued to build them until 1997 when they went out of business. The name has been resurrected by a former Formula 1 driver, but they are building modern jet boards that aren’t anything like these ones.

Keith’s board looks to be in good nice shape, although there’s some damage to the nose. There’s no word on its full history, but he claims it is all original. I imagine that most of these were used hard and put away wet, so it’s cool to see one in good shape. It’s located in central Florida, which seems like a fun place to own something like this. Since I’ve never had the chance to ride a jet board, I’d love to hear from those of you that have and what it’s like! Would you hit the water on this one or would you hang it on the wall as a unique display piece?

Comments

  1. Melton Mooney

    Our car club made a lake trip several years back and everybody brought out their water gadgets. Most popular toys, by far, were the surf jets; Easy and fun to ride and ran almost nonstop all day without any issues.

    Like 4
  2. Jay E. Member

    Back in the 80’s the Jet Ski market has just been invented by Kawasaki and a lot of manufacturers jumped on the band wagon. I was a Jet Ski dealer at the time and rode a lot of the offerings. I tried the Surf Jet, but found the 15HP motor was simply not enough to give the performance that this needed. The motor was not a high quality part and really struggled with the task and so had reliability issues. Part of the problem was that I was working in Lake Tahoe at the time, and the motor lost so much power, probably 30% due to altitude. There were no props available to help it perform with the limited power it had. It could not be modified with aftermarket parts, such as a pipe or porting, so you were stuck with an anemic performer. It was a failure compared to even the early version of the Jet Ski which has 3 times the horsepower. The Jet Ski was also a lot more fun to ride and much easier to teach. Eventually the sit down watercraft ruined the industry altogether and that was that.
    It is amazing to see one in this condition and I wish there were a Jet Ski museum somewhere that would buy this for their collection. But I don’t know of one. DO you?

    Like 4
  3. Jack Quantrill

    I’d hate to have this thing land on me!

  4. Howie

    Yes pretty cool, the water is very calm, i had a Jet Ski, so this is not for sale.

  5. Steve

    We bought a new Surf Jet at marine auction in 1992 or so, we had a ball with it, kids rode the crap out of it for years with no issues. Lots of cheap fun.

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